James McKee

Sound Effect

 

Come the dawn, clean through

my usual downstream drift

of random, qualm-suppressive

dreaming, there cuts a, not sound,

but sound’s hind-edge lull.

Stranger still, to be found

awake where the walls that make

for a house dissolve like doubt,

and all there is is our street’s,

bound in grief and not shamed

by its pain. Before this room’s accum-

ulations can again occlude

my gaze, I’m heading where, bare,

wrongs too embedded not to wring

their truth from song after song

prove how leadenly they’ll linger:

like granules in the tissues, but longer.

 

A day still loyal to its night.

White noise resumes while what illumines

dims. That, thus, seems that. Or

does it? Before fluming off

where next means same, let’s name

every hope this reveille hypes.

Let’s reclaim we will from you shouldn’t,

can from could’ve but couldn’t.

Let’s not wind up ended up

still deadending here. Declare

that we’re hearing rusty hasps

wrested off, and I’ll laugh, Yeah.

For those wondering whether or no

what needed breaking in fact

got broke, my take on it is

we should just make sure it did.

But as for you who long to hear

only the fist-eyed grunt

of a tightening grip, I won’t

cheer or chide such fear.

An hour ached-for as ours

blazes too briefly to waste

on a case as lost, a cause

as disgraced, as now is,

at long, long last, yours.

 

 

Confessional

 

Friends, I’m having one of those days.

Everything’s bad and getting worse.

 

It’s obvious by now that for all the valiant

and selfless striving, most of us won’t

 

change fast enough for it to matter.

The trash, the cars, the meat, the water:

 

do your part or don’t, trust science

or that guy on YouTube, it’s the same. Friends,

 

as a poet I shouldn’t be writing this, but

my mood’s in no mood to worry about

 

how it makes me sound. Well, challenge accepted.

Ask yourselves this: what were you expecting

 

when you breezed in here past a title

like the one above? Something squalid and personal,

 

all binges, breakdowns, and performative trauma?

Sorry to disappoint, but in my disclosure

 

the catastrophe on display is you, not me.

Fact is, friends, I’m ashamed for our species,

 

and for most of us as individuals too.

I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. Boom.

 

So you can understand why I’m always

coming back here, this bright noplace

 

where I’m never too proud to remember

kindnesses shown me when I was poor,

 

or lonely, or foolish, by someone with nothing

to gain. Because here, the rinsed light of morning

 

never quite fades from the view out over

green quiltworked fields, orchards, a river

 

sweeping grandly off toward the sea beyond.

And today you came, which makes me glad

 

because why shouldn’t it? It does. It will.

Here I wish you, I wish us all, well.

 

James McKee

James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, New World Writing, The Ocotillo Review, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

Country Road at Night, North Carolina, 1979

Like eyes in a skull,

riveted on me,

I see the windows

of a white van

in my rearview

mirror.

 

I speed up

so does he

and we keep

going like this,

the sweat of fear

stinging my eyes

till I am racing,

a rabbit, with

a fox that covets,

gaining.

 

A sign for a business district–

the car, and my heart, slow

down.  I turn off, spy a gaggle

of little boys headed home

from Cub Scouts or Bible School.

Grateful to them, I stop, roll down

the window, tell the nearest child:

“I am being followed.

Could I use your parents’ phone?”

“OK”, the kid says “I live over there,

pointing down the road. “Get in,”

I say, “I’ll take you all home,”

and seven small boys

climb in.

 

I am driving slowly

when the sheriff

curious

at the sight,

of a white lady’s car

bursting

with black boys,

stops me.

 

I look back and see

the white van

at the turnoff

to the town,

waiting.

 

 

E. Laura Golberg

Laura Golberg’s poem Erasure has been nominated for a Pushcart 2021 Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Poet Lore, Laurel Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Spillway, RHINO, and the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, among other places. She won first place in the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts Larry Neal Poetry Competition.

Psych Experiment

Sitting in the isolation booth,

listening for the fading bell.

The headphones, leather-bound and lush,

are pillowy around my ears,

a vacuum of sound.

When I first signed up,

I thought it would be easy money.

But within the experiment,

there is always a double game.

 

Amidst a distant humming,

my eardrums gradually disconnect,

and another timbre insinuates itself.

Exclusivity is now unblurred into its primary coloring.

Causal potency, insistent and self-confident,

reaches across the small revolutions

of electrons and protons,

and the power embedded within the orbits becomes tactile.

If you calculate the empty space between the points of energy,

the sum will strain comprehension.

Layer on the emergent potential

and it will fold upon itself, numberless.

 

They want you to tell them what they already know,

but, there’s something else answered

in the darkening absence of sound.

As the soul machine re-dons

its practiced gait, momentum and mass

disguise the slightest remnant of a limp.

Metal shavings vibrate softly,

re-orienting to magnetic poles

with their interpretations.

 

Chris Innes

Chris Innes is a writer living in Washington, D.C. and has had poetry published in a variety of literary magazines, including The Wisconsin Review, The Cape Rock, Prairie Winds, Common Ground Review, The Pikeville Review, Descant, and The Mankato Poetry Review.

How to draw a horse

Honestly, I can’t be bothered to find out

Whether there is already a poem

About how to draw a horse,

The words brushed sleek as the roan mare

You curried the summer you were fourteen

And horseshit was a perfume you sniffed

Eagerly as lilac, as bread broken open,

The linseed funk of a boy two years older,

His voice beyond breaking; his long lashes

Pretty as a forelock. Stables call for pen and ink

And a sure hand; you can use charcoal for a canter.

How to draw a horse– you’re thinking the horse

Stands for something else and it may,

They come standard in quartets for an apocalypse,

Well-matched, ready for a chaise and four

Like Bingley had, along with Netherfield

And Darcy’s impossible friendship, fronting

A dusty stagecoach in the Wild West. You listen

For hoofbeats similar to your systole

If you are not terrified, in a tizzy, falling in love

The way I fall down the stairs in my dreams, endless,

The fall through clouds on a gas giant, pocked Jupiter

Or Bespin, an asymptotic descent I cannot complete.

 

How to draw a horse:

Simply,

Using your dominant hand,

Knowing the crest and the croup,

Still, breathless, tasting

The sweet green scent of masticated hay,

The antithesis of your adoration,

Knowing you will fail.

 

Daisy Bassen

Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.

Boquen, Brittany

She rambles around Plénée-Jugon,
seeking signs, leftovers of her younger self –

life tending kitchen gardens, a commune,
her home at L’abbaye de Boquen. She took a vow,
to return. Determined, she makes her oath good now.

Besret’s Cistercian monks have long gone
and she found years ago, she cannot believe
in God. The oak-timbred door creaks open
and within whitewashed walls, sparse
furnishings, hard pews, scents
of chalky musk
press her back
in time:

guitar riffs, folk songs, radical liturgies
and always people holding hands,
spiritual and temporal
kissing, uniting.

Once inside
her worn out hippy soul
lights a tapered prayer
for peace –

disbelief snuffed out
for seconds.

 

Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook was published in July 2019: ‘Cerddi Bach’ [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press. Her first pamphlet is due to be published in 2021. She is a Pushcart Prize (2019 & 2020) and Forward Prize (2019) nominee and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, UK (2017). She believes everyone’s voice counts.

On Reading That Some Physicists Posit We Are Living in a Computer Simulation

An analysis shows there is a 50% chance that we are living in a synthetic reality – Scientific American

 

If life is a lucid dream or some near-perfect

computer simulation, do I risk waking up

 

to a world in which I can’t embrace you?

I was so young when I came to feel that

 

death is as simple to understand as the eons

before our birth: we are not, and then we are,

 

and then we are not again. I’m a mystic. I

love the weight of the cosmos, how it feels

 

in the palm of my hand. I reach for your

hand in order to hold on to all that I wish

 

were eternal but stand to lose. I can’t dwell

on loss, least of all when thinking of you;

 

and if none of this is real, if there are

truths stranger than our brief mortality,

all the more reason to lie down together and

demand that the earth reveal what it knows—

 

to discover who we are when stripped of fear,

our bodies trembling at the edge of reason.

 

Andy Posner

Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud